YOU open with a 15-17 point 1NT and a simple Stayman auction carries you to game in spades. How will you play this contract when West leads the jack of trumps? You must aim to lose only one heart trick. If you have to play hearts yourself, prospects are poor. If you can eliminate the minor suits, however, you will have the chance to end-play a defender with the third round a trumps. You win the trump lead and, without drawing any more trumps, play the diamond king. East wins with the ace and returns another trump, which you win. You cash the other top diamond and play four rounds of clubs. Even if East declines to ruff the fourth round, you can throw him in with the trump queen and he must open the hearts (or give you a ruff-and-discard). With the intermediates that you hold, it is best to play for the jack and ten of hearts to be divided between the two hands. When East exits with the four of hearts, play low and win West’s jack with the king. On the next round you finesse the nine, forcing West’s ace, and game is yours. It is an example of the Principle of Restricted Choice. Playing in this way you will make the contract when East started with J-x-x or 10-x-x and lose only to A-x-x.

What will you say now?

You have enough for game, at least, but no idea whether it will be best to play in spades, hearts or notrumps. In such a situation you should ask partner for more information with 3C. This convention, known as ‘fourth suit forcing’ is a keystone of modern bidding. Before it was introduced, players worldwide simply had to guess what was the best game!

AWARDS: 3C - 10, 3NT - 4, 4S/4H - 3.

David Bird — Knight Features